One Hundred Days (Alice Pung, Black Inc.)
Is there a right way to love? Karuna feels suffocated by her mother—and her entrapment multiplies when her dad leaves and she’s forced to move away from private school and into council housing in Melbourne’s south east. Somehow, her mother controls her every move, even while working two jobs. Then, when Karuna becomes pregnant at 16, her mother locks her in their 14th-storey flat, with no key and no way out. One Hundred Days is a heartachingly personal story about love, motherhood and the different forms they both take. Alice Pung deftly approaches the colourism present in Asian communities and the confusing reverence that mixed-white children are viewed with, capturing the perplexing doublethink in communities where people maintain a strict adherence to white beauty norms while also sneering at ‘White Ghosts’ (Karuna’s mother’s term for white people). Though not a story explicitly about race, One Hundred Days expertly manoeuvres themes of classism, racism and sexism through the narrative framework of Karuna’s pregnancy. Written in her characteristic first-person direct perspective, Pung’s first novel for adults is a biting exploration of Karuna’s journey as she fights to gain independence from her mother’s suffocating love while learning to be a mother herself. One Hundred Days is a must-read for fans of The Mothers by Brit Bennett and the forthcoming Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier.
Marina Sano is a bookseller and owner of Amplify Bookstore. Read her interview with Alice Pung about One Hundred Days.